less is more

When we are talking to our kids and especially our teenagers I know when I have “lost them”. It’s usually after a few minutes. There I am busy talking and talking until I suddenly notice they have this zoned out, glazed eyed look on their face. It’s then, if I’m practicing good communication skills of watching for eye contact, facial expressions, and body posture that I realise I have lost them.

These occasions remind me that a lot can be said about the benefits of “less is more” when it comes to our words. Many people think they have to talk and talk to get their point across, or that they have to debate and argue about everything. However I have discovered that there are times when God speaks to us, and through us the loudest when we are quiet and still, and when we literally say nothing. Often He uses us the most when we talk less, listen more and follow His leading; allowing Him do the talking.

A good illustration of this truth is a story I read about a guy who used to regularly go to church, and then he suddenly stopped going. After a few weeks the pastor decided to visit him.

It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for the pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him in. He led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited.

The pastor made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence he contemplated the dance of flames around the burning logs. After some minutes the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead.

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The pastor glanced at his watch and realised it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the pastor reached the door to leave his host said with a tear running down his cheek. “Thank you so much for your visit and especially the fiery sermon, I’ll see you on Sunday.”

God’s word reminds us that, “There is a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Being quiet can be a struggle, but it is also a great habit and discipline to cultivate in our lives. God empowers us to both speak out when we feel led to, and to keep quiet and listen too.

Next time you feel like no one is listening or you are tempted to talk and talk to get your point across, remember the power of the quiet and God’s ability to speak in the silence.

“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” (Proverbs 17:27-28)

Prayer: Lord please help me to appreciate the quiet and that I don’t need to fill it with words. Less is often more when it comes to our words, and you speak to us, and through us in many ways. Help me to remember to follow your lead and to both speak when you prompt me, and to have wisdom to keep silent and listen when it is the better thing to do. In Jesus name Amen.